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[casi-analysis] The New Flag of Iraq

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The New Flag of Iraq

The adoption by the Governing Council of Iraq of a new
flag has been received with mixed feelings by Iraqis
and Arabs in general. The majority have expressed
rejection of this flag; some for sentimental reasons
and some for logical reasons.
Most agree that the IGC is an illegal entity which the
international community has refused to recognize,
because it was appointed by an illegal occupation
power, which attacked Iraq in violation of
international law. It therefore has no business
interfering in symbols of Iraq’s sovereignty.

The flag of Iraq has been referred to as “Saddam’s
flag”, and especially Kurdish leaders have refused to
fly it since 1991. They have instead flown their own
flags, depending on which faction and tribe they
belong to. It seems evident that the change of the
flag was the demand of the Kurdish leaders, with the
support of the occupation power.

At the conclusion of the conference for “Iraqi
national reconciliation” convened in Arbil at the end
of March 2004, its host Mas’oud Barzani called for the
adoption of a new flag that would “reflect Iraq’s new
reality”, stating further that “the existing flag
symbolizes the regime of Saddam who came to power
through a military coup”.

Mr. Barzani must know that he was not telling the
truth, as must know other officials of his group, who
repeat the same lies. Iraqis know for a fact that the
existing flag was not adopted by Saddam Hussein nor
introduced by him. It was the flag adopted in 1963,
after the overthrow of the rule of Abdul-Kareem
Qassim, who himself came to power through a military
coup. The three stars symbolize the union between
Iraq, Egypt and Syria; a dream that never came true.
In 1991, Saddam added the words “Allahu Akbar” / God
is the Greatest; something Iraqi rather welcomed.

Barzani further explained that the four colors of the
existing flag (red, white, black and three green
stars) do not reflect the composition of the Iraqi
nation, and that under this flag four thousand Kurdish
villages were destroyed. Barzani also explained that
the flag of the monarchy carried two stars reflecting
the two main ethnic groups in Iraq: Arabs and Kurds.

This is another one of Barzani’s fabrications, perhaps
because Barzani was too young to comprehend the
symbolism of the stars in the monarchy flag, or
perhaps he was not able to understand that the
Monarchy constitution did not refer to Iraq’s ethnic
groups, because all Iraqis were considered equal. The
two stars in the Monarchy flag symbolized the two
great rivers and were heptagrams (seven-pointed),
symbolizing the 14 governorates of Iraq at that time.
If we are to get rid of the flag because a dictator
ruled and killed people under it, should we also
destroy buildings built by similar dictators? Should
mosques, schools, hospitals etc.. built by Saddam also
be destroyed? Should we apply the same (il)logic to
Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Egypt and other
And if a military coup is grounds for rejecting the
flag, why should a flag brought in by a military
occupation be accepted?

But perhaps most important: If the existing flag
symbolizes oppression of the Kurds, why did Barzani
himself seek the help of Saddam’s army in 1996,
fighting under the same flag, to defeat his enemy,
Talabani? Was the flag a symbol of good then???

The colors of the flag (monarchy and existing) are
based on a verse from a poem of the Iraqi poet
Safiyuddin al-Hilli (died 1349), which says:

"White are our deeds, Black are our battles, Green are
our meadows, Red are our swords"

The same colors are also used in the flags of Jordan,
Kuwait, Palestine, United Arab Emirates, Syria, Egypt,
the Sudan, and Yemen, who also base them on the same

The new flag was designed by Iraqi architect, Rifa’t
al-Chadirchi, whose brother Naseer sits on the IGC as
a representative of the Sunnis, and who heads the
committee for the new flag. Seemingly Naseer
commissioned his brother to design a new flag, without
announcing a competition for the design, which also
surprised Iraqi artists.

Rifa’t is a very well known architect, both in Iraq
and worldwide. He was commissioned by Abdul-Kareem
Qassim to design the old monument for the Unknown
Soldier in 1959, which was located in the now famous
al-Firdous Square. He has also designed many famous
buildings in Baghdad and in the Gulf states.
Rifa’t’s father was Kamil al-Chadirchi, leader of the
National Democratic Party; a liberal party in
opposition to the rule of the monarchy. He continued
his opposition to the rule of Abdul-Kareem Qassim
after 1958, because he opposed the military. Rifa’t,
however, was considered to have communist
inclinations, seemingly under the influence of his
wife, Balqis Sharara, who is a Shi’i from Kadhimiya.
Naseer al-Chadirchi, a rich businessman, was also
considered a communist at one point. Rifa’t’s mother
is a Shi’i..

In 1979, Rifa’t was arrested by the regime, accused of
taking illegal commissions from deals with foreign
companies. He remained in jail over a year, and was
later pardoned by Saddam and released and given the
responsibility of architectural projects in Baghdad.
He left Iraq in the 1980s and has not returned since.

Criticism of the flag has also been directed at the
choice of colors. Many have voiced their view that the
proposed flag carries the colors of the Israeli flag;
something the IGC also noticed and asked Chadirchi to
touch up the blue to darken it!
Some have also said that the flag is a “bastardized”
version of the Israeli flag, replacing the Star of
David with the Crescent!! If the flag is to be a true
and honest reflecting of Iraq’s composition, why are
the Christians forgotten? Why aren’t the Turkomens,
Assyrians, Chaldeans and other ethnic groups

It is interesting to note that even Mahmoud Uthman,
member of the IGC, has stated that this is not the
time to adopt a new flag. One can not but wonder if
the IGC even discusses issues before laws and orders
are issued!!

There is also a legal dimension to the adoption or
introduction of a new flag.

THE TRANSITIONAL PERIOD, adopted by the Iraqi
Governing Council states in paragraph three of its
preamble the following:

“This Law is now established to govern the affairs of
Iraq during the transitional period until a duly
elected government, operating under a permanent and
legitimate constitution achieving full democracy,
shall come into being.”

Article 2 of the LAW explain the transitional period
as follows:

“(A) The term “transitional period” shall refer to the
period beginning on 30 June 2004 and lasting until the
formation of an elected Iraqi government pursuant to a
permanent constitution as set forth in
this Law, which in any case shall be no later than 31
December 2005, unless the provisions of Article 61 are

Article 8 of the same LAW states:
“The flag, anthem, and emblem of the State shall be
fixed by law.”

From that, it is quite evident that the IGC’s own
drafted LAW does not give it the right to introduce or
adopt a new flag, emblem or anthem, because that is
the right of an interim government, which only comes
into power AFTER 30 June 2004. And such adoption will
happen by law, which a recognized government can make.

Until such happens, the IGC has no right or authority
to change symbols of sovereignty, regardless of what
we think of the former regime. A flag is not a necktie
that can be changed at will. It is an important symbol
of the sovereignty of a state, and it can therefore
only adopted by one.


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